My greatest urge in life is to do nothing. It’s not even an absence of motivation, a lack, for I do have a strong urge: to do nothing. To down tools, to stop. Except I know that if I do that I will fall into despair, and I know that it is worth doing anything in one’s power to avoid depression because from there, from being depressed, it is only an imperceptible step to despair: the last refuge of the ego.
Once you are depressed there is almost nothing you can do about it. It is useless trying to snap out of it or buck up because it is impossible to see the point of doing anything. Depression is the complete absence of any interest in anything. You cannot think of a single thing to do, or place to go, or book to read. In his periods of ‘huge stagnation’ Pessoa’s Bernando Soares compared his condition to that of a ‘prisoner deprived of normal freedom of action in an infinite prison cell.’
…Getting out of depression is like finding a loophole in the law: you use it once and then it is closed up and sealed off so that it can’t be done again.
Besides, the alternatives to giving in and giving up are never as simple as they seem. Believe me, I know. I’ve devoted more of my life to thoughts of giving up than anyone else I can think of. Nietzsche wrote that the thought of suicide had got him through many a bad night, and thinking of giving up is probably the one thing that’s kept me going. I think about it on a daily basis but always come up against the problem of what to do when I’ve given up. Give up one thing and you’re immediately obliged to do something else. The only way to give up totally is to kill yourself but that one act requires an assertion of will equal to the total amount that would be expanded in the rest of a normal lifetime. Killing yourself is not giving up, it’s more like a catastrophic fast-forwarding, but anything other than suicide imposes an array of disagreeable obligations. All very well to stop living as you do–but then what? Then you have to start living in some other way. Stop doing one thing and you have to start another: something else, something even less agreeable, something which would no doubt have you harking back to the life you’d abandoned in five minutes flat.